The Cool Whips and The Furious Seasons

The Cool Whips

The Cool Whips “Goodies”

I have to give credit to The Cool Whips for trying to revive the lost art of classic Bubblegum pop. In its heyday of the late ’60s, it captured the pre-teen music market with light faux Beatles influenced melodies about candy, games and that prepubescent crush on the playground. Unfortunately today’s kids are light years away from those innocent times, artists like One Direction and Demi Lovato are just as overtly sexualized as adult pop stars (even if it’s in a PG-rated lyric). So I guess this type of music is more for us oldsters who remember that era and are willing to bathe in nostalgia.

Opening with “Tickle Me,” its coming straight from the Kasenetz-Katz playbook crica 1972, sounding like The Banana Splits or 1910 Fruitgum Company with bright shiny chords and go-go beats. “On The See Saw” is another perfect example about a schoolyard fantasy lyric; “I’m gonna make her mine, as quickly as I can/First I gotta grow up and turn into a man.” The melodies are good, standouts being “Lost In The Summertime” and an Archie’s tribute “Boom Shang-a-lang.” Liberal use of the Farfisa organ on “She Did A Number On Me” is fine, but if you are looking for any modern spins of the genre you’ll have to look elsewhere. For me, its good in small doses.
power pop


The Furious Seasons

The Furious Seasons “My Love Is Strong”

It took a while for me to warm up to this very eclectic band. Opening with “Southern Night,” it’s a thrilling rock-pop composition sounding like Neil Diamond singing lead for The Eagles. The band is fronted by David Steinhart, assited by Bob Gannon (drums), Jeff Steinhart (bass), and Eric Marin (keyboards) who takes a soulful approach to the songs, with harmonies and acoustic guitar flourishes. You’ll also hear influences ranging from Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty to The Hooters, on the follow up “Understood.”
Despite all these varied connections, the Furious Seasons sound is uniquely theirs.

Songs range in emotion from haunting folk ballads, to inventive catchy pop. Some of the latter includes the bouncy “Fooled By The Bottle” and “Full Disclosure.” Some descriptive lyrics make the love song “Valentine” elevated beyond the ordinary. And it sometimes has that rich sweeping sound on “Wind Blown,” either way this is a band that deserves to be heard. You may really like them.
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Jay Gonzalez and Donny Brown

Ben Wilkins

Jay Gonzalez “The Bitter Suite” EP

Drive-By Truckers multi-instrumentalist Jay Gonzalez gives us a follow up to his Mess of Happiness with a five “song cycle” EP. It starts with the hum of a theremin and launches into the bright “Light Side of the Leaves,” one of the better tunes here with its 70’s rock tone and its glossy chorus. You’ll hear influences from Bread, Todd Rundgren and even Supertramp.

Each song dovetails into the next so seamlessly, its often hard to distinguish them, but “Almond Eyes” offers up a playful ballad that is an easy favorite, and the closer “Shanarock Lane” is a solid narrative gem with nice closing harmonies that fade back into that theremin. Unfortunately some of the other songs feel a bit threadbare, but it’s still an enjoyable highly recommended EP.
power pop


Donny Brown

Donny Brown “Hess Street” EP

Former drummer of The Verve Pipe delivers a fantastic EP that touches on the full variety of his melodic talents. Donny’s influences are closer to Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and he reminds me of Glen Philips (Toad The Wet Sprocket) in spots.

“Lucky Number” starts out slow and pans out to a rich harmonius chorus. The “Driving Song” is a pleasant easy going highway drive. But the best songs are the magical “Bitter Rival,” like a lost Andrew Gold classic, and “The Night I Fell For You,” one of the most romantic melodies I’ve ever heard. “Call Me” is a faux 1920’s bit of flapper pop that ends things on a light jazzy note. This one sneaks up on you and is one of the best EPs I’ve heard this year.
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Greg Pope and Ryan Link

Greg Pope

Greg Pope “Fanboy”

Dubbed “The Pope of Power Pop” by Steve at Absolute Powerpop blog, Greg has made his band a family affair with his sons contributing to the latest album; Asher Pope on guitar and Noah Pope on drums.

Like most of Greg’s work, you get plenty of solid power pop gems including the awesome biographical title track about growing up a fanboy “who’s 47 but still a kid.” A story about the risks of rock stardom is the focus of the catchy “King Of The Scene.” One of the my favorite songs here is the subtle tempo and crunch of “Greater Threat” with its growing menace in the chords. Another highlight is the running verse of “Pretend It’s Yesterday” with its wonderful overdubbed guitar melody and gentle vocal.

On his own site, Greg is offering up a 23-track Fanboy Deluxe Edition of the album that includes acoustic work tapes, and demos. This is a great album that I proudly recommend, so get it!
power pop

CD Baby | Amazon | Fanboy Deluxe

Ryan Link

Ryan Link “Reverberations” EP

West Coaster Ryan Link was in the Boston power pop band Miss Fortune, when he was bitten by the acting bug and decided to join the Broadway production of Rent in 2003 followed by a revival of Hair in 2009. He returns to music with Reverberations.

Starting with “Under The Rug” its a catchy alt. country theme and “Not Going Anywhere” is a solid biographical story about persistence of the heart. The spacey title track didn’t work for me, but “Maladjusted” is light, shuffling treat. It’s a short (but sweet) sampler, and hopefully we’ll hear more from Ryan in the near future.
power pop

Amazon | CD Baby

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The Kurt Baker Combo and The Lowlands

Kurt Baker Combo

The Kurt Baker Combo “Muy Mola Live!”

Other than the New Trocaderos, singer Kurt Baker offers up a smokin’ live album recorded at Salty Peet’s Rock Shack in Kenosha, WI in June of 2014. He has some of album faves like “Weekend Girls”, “Partied Out”, “Everybody Knows”, and “Don’t Go Falling In Love.” In addition the band covers some 60’s classics like “Love Potion No. 9″ (Searchers), “Cry For A Carajillo” (Beatles), and “Don’t Look Back” (The Remains). Since Baker has moved off to Spain, we miss him here and this is likely the closest you can get to a Kurt Baker concert now. And if you order from Kool Kat Musik, you’ll get a bonus track: a cover of “Nothing But A Heartache” (Mainstream).
power pop

Kool Kat Musik | Amazon


The Lowlands “The Whale”

If you like beautiful indie rock arrangements then let me direct you to Seattle’s The Lowlands. Led by songwriter Tom Rorem with a deceptive soulful calm bubbling under the surface storm of piano keys on “Passionate Soul”. I’m reminded of Seth Timbs band, Fluid Ounces or Ben Folds with a lot less sarcasm. Lots of details fill out the story of “Captain,” about a doomed airliner and the meaning of life, using a jaunty piano meter and rich harmonies. It ends with a superb guitar and piano combo, and you’ll find many songs here just rock out in the last half, as “Dust” is another example.

“Hands and Feet” is another example of rich infectious melody that’s impossible to ignore. While not every song is classic, the skill and musicianship here keep these songs from getting predictable. Rorem’s clear vocal is compelling, even on the dry title track. Overall, this short album does just enough to add it to my recommended list.
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Celebrate Record Store Day!

Looking to find a local record store? Search here!

DEALS! Kool Kat Musik Celebrates the long weekend with a big sale from 4/17 to 4/19!
Rough Trade: On April 18th at 12:30 p.m. we’ll be cutting a record live with Sondre Lerche at the Rough Trade store in Brooklyn. It’s a thrill to be a part of Rough Trade’s fantastic Record Store Day event, and we hope you can be there.
Vagrant Records is pleased to announce four vinyl releases exclusive to Record Store Day on April 18, 2015. All on 180g, Vagrant will be releasing The Hold Steady’s two classics Boys and Girls in America and Heaven Is Whenever, as well as Blitzen Trapper’s Live Harvest and Justin Townes Earle’s Live At Grimey’s. Visit Vagrant

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